Judges, book of the Bible, seventh book of the Old Testament in the order of the Authorized Version. It is the sequel of Joshua in the biblical history, telling of the Hebrews in the Promised Land from Joshua's death up to the time of Samuel. As stated in its introduction, the book is an account of Israel's successive apostasies from God and their consequences—first, punishment at the hands of a foreign nation, then delivery from it by God, who raises up a leader. The leaders are called judges; they are primarily military leaders, the heads of tribes. The chronology of Judges is impossible to untangle, partly because of occasional failure to give the length of time between the judges. The book consists mainly of lengthy accounts of a few judges: Deborah with Barak, Gideon, Gideon's usurping son Abimelech, Jephthah, and Samson. The other judges receive less attention, some a bare mention: Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar before Deborah; Tola and Jair before Jephthah; and Ibzan, Elon and Abdon before Samson. The opening chapter of the book is out of order, for it belongs to the period of Joshua; the closing chapters contain two appended stories of violence, one laid in Dan, the other in Benjamin. For critical views of the composition and for bibliography, see Old Testament.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.